Growing up in South Africa, it was not out of the ordinary to know someone, or know of somebody, with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) or AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Now that I’m studying in the United States, this is not so common.

However, over the last 10 years, the number of people between the ages of 20 and 24 diagnosed with HIV has tripled, according to the HIV Surveillance Report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

East Tennessee State University hosted its second annual Sexual Health Week last week. Mellissa McElroy, the treasurer of the Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance, said that the purpose of this sexual education week was to inform students of the information the public school system may have skipped over.

The CDC and American College Health Association believe that one out of every 500 university students is HIV positive.

HIV, if left untreated, can develop into AIDS. HIV is incurable and attacks the immune system, so it is unable to fight infections or other diseases. AIDS is the last stage of the HIV infection.

HIV is spread through bodily fluids that have come in physical contact with a mucous membrane, damaged skin tissue or by sharing needles with an infected individual. The virus can also be spread during pregnancy or breastfeeding and other seemingly odd ways, like being bitten by someone who is infected with HIV.

When I first arrived in Tennessee, I realized that the average high school student knew nothing of the virus, except for the fact that it is transferred through bodily fluids.

Some college students may still believe the prevalent stereotype that only homosexual men are at risk of getting HIV and AIDS.

College campuses are cesspools of infections and diseases. Get tested and be honest with your sexual partners. There are serious legal implications if you spread this virus. The CDC website states that in addition to some states having laws specifically forbidding some actions that may spread the disease, “all states have general criminal laws—such as assault and battery, reckless endangerment, and attempted murder—that can and have been used to prosecute individuals” who do not disclose their HIV status to their sexual partners and other actions that pose a risk to others.

ETSU’s Student Health Services offers testing for STDs and women’s health exams. According to, a United Kingdom charity that aims to increase education about HIV/AIDS, it is good practice for every individual to be tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections at least once per year.

However, if you or anybody you know has engaged in any behaviors that increase their risk of exposure such as having unprotected sex, being scratched or cut by a sharp object that may have been infected and using intravenous drugs, make an appointment to be tested at Student Health Services at Roy S. Nicks Hall, Suite 160, or call at (423) -439-4225.

HIV cannot be cured, but can be controlled by antiretroviral therapy. There is help available.